Child and Doll in One Coffin.
I beheld a touching spectacle when the corpse of a little girl was extricated and placed on a stretcher for transportation to the morgue. Clasped to her breast by her two waxen hands was a rag doll. It was a cheap affair, evidently of domestic manufacture. To the child of poverty the rag baby was a favorite toy. The little mother held fast to her treasure and met her end without separating from it. The two, child and doll, were not parted when the white coffin received them, and they will moulder together.
I saw an old-fashioned cupboard dug out of a pile of rubbish. The top shelf contained a quantity of jelly of domestic manufacture. Not a glass jar was broken. Indeed there have been some remarkable instances of the escape of fragile articles from destruction. In the debris near the railroad bridge you may come upon all manner of things. The water-tanks of three locomotives which were borne from the roundhouse at Conemaugh, two miles away, are conspicuous. Amid the general wreck, beneath one of these heavy iron tanks, a looking glass, two feet by one foot in dimensions, was discovered intact, without even a scratch on the quicksilver.
Johnstown people surviving the destruction appear to bewail the death of the Fisher family. "Squire" Fisher was one of the old time public functionaries of the borough. He and his six children were swept away. One of the Fisher girls was at home under peculiar circumstances. She had been away at school, and returned home to be married to her betrothed. Then she was to return to school and take part in the graduating exercises. Her body has not yet been recovered.
Something to be Thankful For.
There is much destitution felt by people whose pride prevents them from asking for supplies from the relief committees. I saw a sad little procession wending up the hill to the camp of the Americus Club. There was a father, an honest, simple German, who had been employed at the Cambria works during the past twelve years. Behind him trooped eight children, from a girl of fourteen to a babe in the arms of the mother, who brought up the rear. The woman and children were hatless, and possessed only the calico garments worn at the moment of flight. Forlorn and weary, they ranged in front of the relieving stand and implored succor.
"We lost one only, thank God!" exclaimed the mother. "Our second daughter is gone. We had a comfortable house which we owned. It was paid for by our savings. Now all is gone." Then the unhappy woman sat down on the wet ground and sobbed hysterically. The children crowded around their mother and joined in her grief. You will behold many of these scenes of domestic distress about the ruins of Johnstown in these dolorous days.
Saw a Flood of Helpless Humanity.
Mr. L.D. Woodruff, the editor and proprietor of the Johnstown Democrat, tells his experiences during the night of horrors. He was at the office of the paper, which is in the upper portion of the Baltimore and Ohio Railway station. This brick edifice stands almost in the centre of the course of the flood, and its preservation from ruin is one of the remarkable features of the occasion. A pile of freight cars lodged at the corner of the building and the breakwater thus formed checked the onslaught of floating battering rams. Mr. Woodruff, with his two sons, remained in the building until the following day. The water came up to the floor of the second story. All night long he witnessed people floating past on the roofs of houses or on various kinds of wreckage. A number of persons were rescued through the windows.
A man and his wife with three children were pulled in. After a while the mother for the first time remembered that her baby of fifteen months was left behind. Her grief was violent, and her cries were mingled with the groans of her husband, who lay on the floor with a broken leg. The next day the baby was found, when the waters subsided, on a pile of debris outside and it was alive and uninjured.
During the first few hours Mr. Woodruff momentarily expected that the building would go. As the night wore away it became evident the water was going down. Not a vestige of Mr. Woodruff's dwelling has been found.
The newspapers of Johnstown came out of the flood fairly well. The Democrat lost only a job press, which was swept out of one corner of the building.
The Flood's Awful Spoil.
In the broad field of debris at the Pennsylvania Railroad viaduct, where the huge playthings of the flood were tossed only to be burned and beaten to a solid, intricate mass, are seen the peculiar metal works of two trains of cars. The wreck of the day express east, running in two sections that fatal Friday, lie there about thirty yards above the bridge. One mass of wreckage is unmistakably that of the Pullman car section, made up of two baggage cars and six Pullman coaches, and the other shows the irons of five day coaches and one Pullman car. These trains were running in the same block at Johnstown and were struck by the flood two miles above, torn from their tracks and carried tumbling down the mighty torrents to their resting place in the big eddy.
Railroad Men Suppressing Information.
The train crew, who saw the waters coming, warned the passengers, escaped, and went home on foot. Conductor Bell duly made his report, yet for some unknown reasons one of Superintendent Pitcairn's sub-ordinates has been doing his best to give out and prove by witnesses, to whom he takes newspaper men, that only one car of that express was lost and with it "two or three ladies who went back for overshoes and a very few others not lively enough to escape after the warnings." That story went well until the smoke rolled away from the wreckage and the bones of the two sections of the day express east were disclosed. Another very singular feature was the apparent inability of the conductor of the express to tell how many passengers they had on board and just how many were saved. It had been learned that the first section of the train carried 180 passengers and the second 157. It may be stated as undoubtedly true that of the number fifty, at least, swell the horrible tale of the dead.
From the wreck where the trains burned there have been taken out fifty-eight charred bodies, the features being unrecognizable. Of these seven found together were the Gilmore family, whose house had floated there. The others, all adults, which, with two or three exceptions, swell the list of the unidentified dead, are undoubted corpses of the ill-fated passengers of the east express.
The Church Loses a Missionary.
To-day another corpse was found in the ruins of a Pullman car badly burned. It was fully identified as that of Miss Anna Clara Chrisman, of Beauregard, Miss., a well-developed lady of about twenty-five years, who was on her way to New York to fill a mission station in Brazil. Between the leaves of her Greek testament was a telegram she had written, expecting to send it at the first stop, addressed to the Methodist Mission headquarters, No. 20 East Twelfth street, New York, saying that she would arrive on "train 8" of the Pennsylvania Railroad, the day express east. In her satchel were found photographs of friends and her Bible, and from her neck hung a $20 gold piece, carefully sewn in a bag.
Is it possible that the Pennsylvania Railroad is keeping back the knowledge in order simply to avoid a list of "passengers killed" in its annual report, solely to keep its record as little stained as possible? It can hardly be that they fear suits for damages, for the responsibility of the wreck does not rest on them.
Two hundred bodies were recovered from the ruins yesterday. Some were identified, but the great majority were not. This number includes all the morgues—the one at the Pennsylvania Railroad station, the Fourth ward school, Cambria city, Morrellville, Kernville and the Presbyterian Church.
At the latter place a remarkable state of affairs exists. The first floor has been washed out completely and the second, while submerged, was badly damaged, but not ruined. The walls, floors and pews were drenched, and the mud has collected on the matting and carpets an inch deep. Walking is attended with much difficulty, and the undertakers and attendants, with arms bared, slide about the slippery surface at a tremendous rate. The chancel is filled with coffins, strips of muslin, boards, and all undertaking accessories. Lying across the tops of the pews are a dozen pine boxes, each containing a victim of the flood. Printed cards are tacked on each. Upon them the sex and full description of the enclosed body is written with the name, if known.
The Nameless Dead.
The great number of bodies not identified seems incredulous and impossible. Some of these bodies have lain in the different morgues for four days. Thousands of people from different sections of the State have seen them, yet they remain unidentified.
At Nineveh they are burying all the unidentified dead, but in the morgues in this vicinity no bodies have been buried unless they were identified.
The First Presbyterian Church contains nine "unknown." Burials will have to be made to-morrow. This morning workmen found three members of Benjamin Hoffman's family, which occupied a large residence in the rear of Lincoln street. Benjamin Hoffman, the head of the family, was found seated on the edge of the bedstead. He was evidently preparing to retire when the flood struck the building. He had his socks in his pocket. His twenty-year-old daughter was found close by attired in a night-dress. The youngest member of the family, a three-year-old infant, was also found beside the bed.
Where the Dead are Laid.
I made a tour of the cemeteries to-day to see how the dead were disposed in their last resting place. There are six burying grounds—two to the south of this place, one to the north, and three on Morrellsville to the west. The principal one is Grand View, on the summit of Kernville Hill.
But the most remarkable, through the damage done by the flood, is Sandy Vale Cemetery, at Hornersville, on Stony Creek, and about half a mile from the city of Johnstown. It is a private institution in which most of the people of the city buried their dead until two years ago, when the public corporation of Grand View was established. Its grounds are level, laid out in lots, and were quite picturesque, its dense foliage and numerous monuments attracting the eyes of every passenger entering the city by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, which passes along one side the creek forming its other boundary. The banks of the creek are twenty feet high, and there was a nice sandy beach through its entire length.
A Sorry Scene.
When the floods came the first of the wreckage and the backwater sent hundreds of houses, immense quantities of logs and cut lumber over it and into the borough of Hornersville. As the angry waters subsided the pretty cemetery was wrecked as badly as was the city, a portion of the debris of which has destroyed its symmetry. To make way for the burial of the numerous bodies sent there by the town committees it became necessary to burn some of the debris. This was commenced at the nearest or southern end, and at the time of my visit I had, like the corpses, to pass through an avenue of fire and over live ashes to make my inspection. There were no unknown dead sent here, consequently they were interred in lots, and here and there, as the cleared spots would allow, a body was deposited and the grave made to look as decently as four or five inches of mud on the surface and the clay soil would allow.
Masses of Debris.
Scarcely a monument was left standing. Tall columns were broken like pipe-stems, and fences and evergreen bowers were almost a thing of the past. Whole houses on their sides, with their roofs on the ground, covered the lots, the beach, or blocked up the pathways, while other houses in fragments strewed the surface of the ground from one end to the other of the cemetery, once the pride of Johnstown. I found that some of the trees which were standing had feather beds or articles of furniture up in their boughs. Here and there a dead cow or a horse, two or three wagons, a railroad baggage car. Add to this several thousand logs, heaps of lumber, piled just as they left the yards, and still other single planks by the hundred thousand of feet, and some idea of the surroundings of the victims of the flood placed at rest here can be obtained.
On Kernville Hill.
Grand View Cemetery, a beautiful spot, was started as a citizens' cemetery and incorporated two years ago, and is now the finest burying place in this section of Pennsylvania. It is situated on the summit of Kernville hill, between six hundred and seven hundred feet above the town. It is approached by a zigzag roadway about one mile and a half in length, and a magnificent view of the valley is obtained from the grounds, making it well worth a visit under any circumstances. Here those whose relatives did not hold lots are to be buried in trenches four feet deep, sixty bodies to a trench. At present the trenches are not complete, and their encoffined bodies are stored in the beautiful stone chapel at the entrance. Of the other bodies they are entombed in the lots, where more than one were buried together. A wide grave was dug to hold them side by side. A single grave was made for Squire Fisher's family, one grave and one mound holding eight of them.
Snatched from the Flood.
One of the most thrilling incidents of narrow escapes is that told by Miss Minnie Chambers. She had been to see a friend in the morning and was returning to her home on Main street, when the suddenly rising waters caused her to quicken her steps. Before she could reach her home or seek shelter at any point, the water had risen so high and the current became so strong that she was swept from her feet and carried along in the flood. Fortunately her skirts served to support her on the surface for a time, but at last as they became soaked she gave up all hope of being saved.
Just as she was going under a box car that had been torn from its trucks floated past her and she managed by a desperate effort to get hold of it and crawled inside the open doorway. Here she remained, expecting every moment her shelter would be dashed to pieces by the buildings and other obstructions that it struck. Through the door she could see the mass of angry, swirling waters, filled with all manner of things that could be well imagined.
An Ark of Refuge.
Men, women and children, many of them dead and dying, were being whirled along. Several of them tried to get refuge in the car with her, but were torn away by the rushing waters before they could secure an entrance. Finally a man did make his way into the car. On went the strange boat, while all about it seemed to be a perfect pandemonium. Shrieks and cries from the thousands outside who were being driven to their death filled the air.
Miss Chambers says it was a scene that will haunt her as long as she lives. Many who floated by her could be seen kneeling on the wreckage that bore them, with clasped hands and upturned faces as though in prayer. Others wore a look of awful despair on their faces. Suddenly, as the car was turned around, the stone bridge could be seen just ahead of them. The man that was in the car called to her to jump out in the flood or she would be dashed to pieces. She refused to go.
He seized a plank and sprang into the water. In an instant the eddying current had torn the plank from him, and as it twisted around struck him on the head, causing him to throw out his arms and sink beneath the water never to reappear again. Miss Chambers covered her face to avoid seeing any more of the horrible sight, when with an awful crash the car struck one of the stone piers. The entire side of it was knocked out. As the car lodged against the pier the water rushed through it and carried Miss Chambers away. Again she gave herself up as lost, when she felt herself knocked against an obstruction, and instinctively threw out her hand and clutched it.
Here she remained until the water subsided, when she found that she was on the roof of one of the Cambria mills, and had been saved by holding on to a pipe that came through the roof.
A Night of Agony.
All through that awful night she remained there, almost freezing to death, and enveloped in a dense mass of smoke from the burning drift on the other side of the bridge. The cries of those being roasted to death were heard plainly by her. On Saturday some men succeeded in getting her from the perilous position she occupied and took her to the house of friends on Prospect Hill. Strange to say that with the exception of a few bruises she escaped without any other injuries.
Another survivor who told a pathetic story was John C. Peterson. He is a small man but he was wearing clothes large enough for a giant. He lost his own and secured those he had on from friends.
"I'm the only one left," he said in a voice trembling with emotion. "My poor old mother, my sister, Mrs. Ann Walker, and her son David, aged fourteen, of Bedford county, who were visiting us, were swept away before my eyes and I was powerless to aid them.
"The water had been rising all day, and along in the afternoon flooded the first story of our house, at the corner of Twenty-eighth and Walnut streets. I was employed by Charles Mun as a cigarmaker, and early on Friday afternoon went home to move furniture and carpets to the second story of the house.
"As near as I can tell it was about four o'clock when the whistle at the Gautier steel mill blew. About the same time the Catholic church bell rang. I knew what that meant and I turned to mother and sister and said, 'My God, we are lost!'
Here's A Hero.
"I looked out of the window and saw the flood, a wall of water thirty feet high, strike the steel works, and it melted quicker than I tell it. The man who stopped to blow the warning whistle must have been crushed to death by the falling roof and chimneys. He might have saved himself, but stopped to give the warning. He died a hero. Four minutes after the whistle blew the water was in our second story.
"We started to carry mother to the attic, but the water rose faster than we could climb the stairs. There was no window in our attic, and we were bidding each other good-by when a tall chimney on the house adjoining fell on our roof and broke a hole through it. We then climbed out on the roof, and in another moment our house floated away. It started down with the other stuff, crashing, twisting and quivering. I thought every minute it would go to pieces.
"Finally it was shoved over into water less swift and near another house.
"I found that less drift was forced against it than against ours, and decided to get on it. I climbed up on the roof, and in looking up saw a big house coming down directly toward ours, I called to sister to be quick. She was lifting mother up to me. I could barely reach the tips of her fingers when her arms were raised up while I lay on my stomach reaching down. At that moment the house struck ours and my loved ones were carried away and crushed by the big house. It was useless for me to follow, for they sank out of sight. I floated down to the bridge, then back with the current and landed at Vine street.
"I saw hundreds of people crushed and drowned. It is my opinion that fully fifteen thousand people perished."
When the whistles of the Gautier Steel Mill of the Cambria Iron Company blew for the shutting down of the works at 10 o'clock last Friday morning nearly 1400 men walked out of the establishment and went to their homes, which were a few hours later wiped off the face of the earth. When the men to-day answered the notice that all should present themselves ready for work only 487 reported. That shows more clearly than anything else that has yet been known the terrible nature of the fatality of the Conemaugh. The mortality wrought among these men in a few hours is thus shown to have been greater than that in either of the armies that contended for three days at Gettysburg.
"Report at 9 o'clock to-morrow morning ready for work," the notice posted read. It did not say where, but everybody knew it was not at the great Gautier Mill that covered half a dozen acres, for the reason that no mill is there. By a natural impulse the survivors of the working force of the steel plant began to move from all directions, before the hour named, toward the general office of the company.
What the Superintendent Saw.
This office is located in Johnstown proper and is the only building in that section of the town left standing uninjured. It is a large brick building, three stories high, with massive brick walls. L.L. Smith, the commercial agent of the company, arrived at eight o'clock to await the gathering of the men, pausing a minute in the doorway to look at two things. One was an enormous pile of debris, bricks, iron girders and timbers almost in front of the office door which swarmed with 200 men engaged in clearing it away. This is the ruins of the Johnstown Free Library, presented to the town by the Cambria Iron Company, the late I.V. Williamson and others, and beneath it Mr. Smith knew many of his most intimate friends were buried. The other thing he looked at was his handsome residence partly in ruins, a few hundred yards away. When he entered the office he found that the men who had been shoveling the mud out of the office had finished their work and the floor was dark and sticky. A fire blazed in the open grate. A table was quickly rigged up and with three clerks to assist him, Mr. Smith prepared to make up the roster of the Gautier forces.
The Survivor's Advance Corps.
Soon they began to come like the first reformed platoon of an army after fleeing from disaster. The leader of the platoon was a small boy. His hat was pulled down over his eyes and he looked as if he were sorely afraid. After him came half a dozen men with shambling gait. One was an Irishman, two were English, one was a German and one a colored man. Two of them carried pickaxes in their hands, which they had been using to clear away the wreckage across the street.
"Say, mister," stammered the abashed small boy, "is this the place?"
"Are you a Gautier man?" asked Mr. Smith kindly.
"Yes, sir, me and me father, but he's gone."
"Give us your name, my boy, and report at the lower works at 4 o'clock. Now, my men, we want to get to work and pull each other out of the hole, this dreadful calamity has put us in. It's no use having vain regrets. It's all over and we must put a good face to the front. At first it was intended that we should go up to the former site of the Gautier Mill and clean up and get out all the steel we could. Mr. Stackhouse now wants us to get to work and clear the way from the lower mills right up the valley. We will rebuild the bridge back of the office here and push the railroad clear up to where it was before."
Not Anxious to Turn In.
The men listened attentively, and then one of them asked: "But, Mr. Smith, if we don't feel just like turning in to-day we don't have to, do we?"
"Nobody will have to work at all," was the answer, "but we do want all the men to lend a hand to help us out as soon as they can."
While Mr. Smith was speaking several other workmen came in. They, too, were Gautier employees, and they had pickaxes on their shoulders. They heard the agent's last remark, and one of them, stepping forward, said: "A good many of us are working cleaning up the town. Do you want us to leave that?"
"It isn't necessary for you to work cleaning up the town," was the reply. "There are plenty of people from the outside to do that who came here for that purpose. Now, boys, just give your names so we can find out how many of our men are left, and all of you that can, go down and report at the lower office."
All the time the members of the decimated Gautier army were filing into the muddy-floored office. They came in twos and threes and dozens, and some bore out the idea of an army reforming after disaster, because they bore grievous wounds. One man had a deep cut in the back of his head, another limped along on a heavy stick, one had lost a finger and had an ugly bruise on his cheek. J.N. Short, who was the foreman of the cold-rolled steel shafting department, sat in the office, and many of the men who filed past had been under him in the works.
There were handshakes all the more hearty and congratulations all the more sincere because of what all had passed through. When the wall of water seventy-five feet high struck the mill and whipped it away like shot Mr. Short was safe on higher ground, but many of the men had feared he was lost.
"I tell you, Mr. Short," said J.T. Miller, "I'm glad to see you're safe."
"And how did you make out, old man?"
"All right, thank God."
Then came another man bolder than all and apparently a general favorite. He rushed forward and shook Mr. Smith's hand. "Mr. Smith," he exclaimed, "good morning, good morning."
"So you got out of it, did you, after all?" asked Mr. Smith.
"Indeed I did, but Lord bless my soul, I thought the wife and babies were gone." The man gave his name and hurried away, brushing a tear from his eye.
Mr. Shellenberger, one of the foremen, brought up the rear of the next platoon to enter. He caught sight of Mr. Smith and shouted: "Oh, Mr. Smith: good for you. I'm glad to see you safe."
"Here to you, my hearty," was the answer. "Did you all get off?"
"Every blessed one of us," with a bright smile. "We were too high on the hill."
He was Tired of Johnstown.
A little bit later another man came in. He looked as if he had been weeping. He hesitated in front of the desk. "I am a Gautier employee," he said, speaking slowly, "and I have reported according to orders."
"Well, give us your name and go to work down at the lower works," suggested Mr. Smith.
"No, sir, I think not," he muttered, after a pause. "I am not staying in this town any longer than I can help, I guess. I've lost two children and they will be buried to-day."
"All right, my man, but if you want work we have plenty of it for you."
The reporting of names and these quiet mutual congratulations of the men went on rapidly, but expected faces did not appear. This led Mr. Smith to ask, "How about George Thompson? Is he alive?"
"I do not know," answered the man addressed. "I do not think so."
"Who do you know are alive?" asked Mr. Smith, turning to another man. Mr. Smith never once asked who was dead.
"Well," answered the man speaking reflectively, "I'm pretty sure Frank Smith is alive. John Dagdale is alive. Tom Sweet is alive, and I don't know any more, for I've been away—at Nineveh." The speaker had been at Nineveh looking for the body of his son. Not another word was said to him.
"Say, boys," exclaimed Mr. Smith suddenly, a few minutes after he had looked over the list, "Pullman hasn't reported yet."
"But Pullman's all right," said a man quickly, "I was up at his sister's house last night and he was there. That's more than I can say of the other men in Pullman's shift though," added the speaker in a low tone. Mr. Short took this man aside, "That is a fact," said he, "yesterday I knew of a family in which five out of six were lost. To-day I find out there were twenty people in the house mostly our men and only three escaped."
Each Thought the Other Dead.
Just then two men met at the door and fairly fell on each other's necks. One wore a Grand Army badge and the other was a young fellow of twenty-three or thereabouts. They had been fast friends in the same department, and each thought the other dead. They knew no better till they met at the office door. "Well, I heard your body had been found at Nineveh," said the old man.
"And I was told you had been burned to death at the bridge," answered the other. Then the two men solemnly shook hands and walked away together.
A pale-faced woman with a shawl over her shoulders entered and stood at the table. "My husband cannot report," she said simply, in almost a whisper. "He worked for the Gautier Mill?" she was asked. She nodded, bent forward and murmured something. The man at the desk said: "Make a note of that; so-and-so's wife reports him as gone, and his wages due are to be paid to her."
The work of recording the men went on until nearly one o'clock. Then, after waiting for a long time, Mr. Smith said, "Out of 1400 men we now have 487. It may be there are 200 who either did not see the notice or who are too busy to come. Anyway, I hope so—my God, I hope so." All afternoon the greater part of the 487 men were swinging pickaxes and shovels, clearing the way for the railroad leading up to the Gautier Steel Works of the future.
The Morbidly Curious.
To-day the order "Halt!" rang out in earnest at the footbridge over the rushing river into Johnstown. It was the result of a cry as early as the reveille, that came from among the ruins and from the hoarse throats of the contractors—"For God's sake, keep the morbid people out of here; they're in the way!"
General Hastings ordered the picket out on the high embankment east of the freight depot, where every man, woman and child must pass to reach the bridge. Colonel Perchment detailed Captain Hamilton, of G Company, there with an ample guard, and all who came without General Hastings' pass in the morning were turned aside. This afternoon a new difficulty was encountered. When you flashed your military pass on the sentinel who cried "Halt!" he would throw his gun slantwise across your body, so that the butt grazed your right hip and the bayonet your left ear and say: "No good unless signed by the sheriff." The civil authorities had taken the bridge out of the hands of the militia, and the sheriff sat on a camp stool overlooking the desolate city all the forenoon making out passes and approving the General's.
No Conflict of Authority.
The military men say there was no conflict of authority, and it was deemed proper that the civil authorities should still control the pass there. The sheriff came near getting shot in Cambria City this morning during a clash with one of his deputies over a buggy. Yet he looked calm and serene. Some beg him for passes to hunt for their dead. One man cried: "I've just gotten here, and my wife and children are in that town;" another said, "I belong in Conemaugh and was carried off by the flood," while an aged, trembling man behind him whispered, "Sheriff, I just wanted to look where the old home stood." When four peaceful faced sisters in convent garb, on their mission of mercy, came that way the sentinels stood back a pace and no voice ordered "Halt!"
At noon the crane belonging to the Pennsylvania Railroad was taken away from the debris at the bridge, and Mr. Kirk had to depend on dynamite alone. Later it was ordered back, and after that the work went on rapidly. An opening 400 feet long, which runs back in some places fifty feet, was made during the afternoon. A relief party yesterday found a ladies' hand satchel containing $91 in cash, deeds for $26,000 in property and about $10,000 in insurance policies. Mrs. Lizzie Dignom was the owner, and both she and her husband perished in the flood.
Remembering the Orphans.
Miss H.W. Hinckley and Miss E. Hanover, agent of the Children's Aid Society and Bureau of Information of Philadelphia, arrived here this morning, and in twenty minutes had established a transfer agency. Miss Hinckley said:
"There are hundreds of children here who are apparently without parents. We want all of them given to us, and we will send them to the various homes and orphanages of the State, where they shall be maintained for several months to await the possibility of the reappearance of their parents when they will be returned to them. If after the lapse of a month they do not reclaim their little ones, we shall do more than we ordinarily do in the way of providing good homes for children in their cases. Think of it, in the house adjoining us are seven orphans, all of one family. We have been here only a half hour, but we have already found scores. We shall stay right here till every child has been provided for."
There is no denying that a great deal of ill-feeling is breeding here between the survivors of the flood over the distribution of the relief supplies. The supplies are spread along the railroad track down as far as Morrellville in great stacks; provisions, clothing, shoes, and everything else. The people come for them in swarms with baskets and other means of conveyance. Lines are drawn, which are kept in trim by the pickets, and in this way they pass along in turn to the point where the stock is distributed.
It was not unusual yesterday to hear women's tongues lashing each other and complaining that the real sufferers were being robbed and turned away, while those who had not fared badly by flood or fire were getting lots of everything from the committee. One woman made this complaint to a corporal.
"Prove it; prove it," he said, and walked away. She cried after him, "The pretty women are getting more than they can carry."
Twice the line of basket-carriers was broken by the guard to put out wranglers, and all through the streets of Cambria City could be heard murmurs of dissension. There is no doubt but that a strong guard will be kept in the town day and night, for in their deplorable condition the husbands may take up the quarrel of their wives.
Danger of Insanity.
The Medical News, of Philadelphia, with rare enterprise, despatched a member of its staff to Johnstown, and he telegraphed as follows for the next issue of that paper:
"The mental condition of almost every former resident of Johnstown is one of the gravest character, and the reaction which will set in when the reality of the whole affair is fully comprehended can scarcely fail to produce many cases of permanent or temporary insanity. Most of the faces that one meets, both male and female, are those of the most profound melancholia, associated with an almost absolute disregard of the future. The nervous system shows the strain it has borne by a tremulousness of the hand and of the lip, in man as well as in woman. This nervous state is further evidenced by a peculiar intonation of words, the persons speaking mechanically, while the voices of many rough-looking men are changed into such tremulous notes of so high a pitch, as to make one imagine that a child, on the verge of tears, is speaking. Crying is so rare that your correspondent saw not a tear on any face in Johnstown, but the women that are left are haggard, with pinched features and heavy, dark lines under their eyes.
"The State Board of Health should warn the people of the portions of the country supplied by the Conemaugh of the danger of drinking its waters for weeks to come."
The Women and Children.
New Johnstown will be largely a city of childless widowers. One of the peculiar things a stranger notices is the comparatively small number of women seen in the streets. Of the throngs who walked about the place searching for dear friends there is not one woman to ten men. Occasionally a little group of two or three women with sad faces will pick their way about looking for the morgues. There are a few Sisters of Charity—their black robes the only instance in which the conventional badge of mourning is seen upon the streets—and in the parts of the town not totally destroyed the usual number of women are seen in the houses and yards.
But, as a rule, women are a rarety in Johnstown now. This is not a natural peculiarity of Johnstown nor a mere coincidence, but a fact with a terrible reason behind it. There are so many more men than women among the living in Johnstown now because there are so many more women than men among the dead. Of the bodies recovered there are at least two women to every one man. Besides the fact that their natural weakness made them an easier prey to the flood, the hour at which the disaster came was one when the women would most likely be in their homes and the men at work in the open air or in factory yards, from which escape was easy.
An Almost Childless City.
Children also are rarely seen about the town and for a similar reason. They are all dead. There is never a group of the dead discovered that does not contain from one to three or four children for every grown person. Generally the children are in the arms of the grown persons, and often little toys and trinkets clasped in their hands indicate that the children were caught up while at play and carried as far as possible toward safety.
Johnstown, when rebuilt, will be a city of many widowers and few children. In turning a school-house into a morgue, the authorities probably did a wiser thing than they thought. It will be a long time before the school-house will be needed for its original purpose.
The Flood on the Flat.
The flood, with a front of twenty feet high, bristling with all manner of debris, struck straight across the flat, as though the river's course had always been that way. It cut off the outer two-thirds of the city with a line as true and straight as could have been drawn by a survey. On the part over which it swept there remains standing but one building, the brewery. With this exception, not only the houses and stores, but the pavements, sidewalks and curbstones, and the earth beneath for several feet are washed away. The pavements were of cinders from the Iron Works; a bed six inches thick and as hard as stone and with a surface like macadam. Over west of the washed-out portion of the city not even the broken fragments of these pavements are left.
Aside from the few logs and timbers left by the afterwash of the flood, there is nothing remaining upon the outer edge of the flat, including two of the four long streets of the city, except the brewery mentioned before and a grand piano. The water-marks on the brewery walls show the flood reached twenty feet up its sides and it stood on a little higher ground than buildings around it at that.
Thieves Had Rifled His Safe.
Mr. Steires, who on last Friday was the wealthiest man in town, on Sunday was compelled to borrow the dress which clothed his wife. When the flood began to threaten he removed some of the most valuable papers from his safe and moved them to the upper story of the building to keep them from getting wet. When the dam burst and Conemaugh Lake came down these, of course, went with the building. He got his safe Monday, but found that thieves had been before him, they having chiseled it open and taken everything but $65 in a drawer which they overlooked. Mr. Steires said to-day: "I am terribly crippled financially, but my family were all saved and I am ready to begin over again."
Rebuilding Going On Apace.
Oklahoma is not rising more quickly than the temporary buildings of the workmen's city, which includes 5,000 men at least, and who are mingling the sounds of hammers on the buildings they are putting up for their temporary accommodation, with the crash of the buildings they are tearing down. It seemed almost a waste of energy two days ago, but the different gangs are already eating their way towards the heart of the great masses of wreckage that block the streets in every direction.
A dummy engine has already been placed in position on what was the main street, and all the large logs and rafters that the men can not move are fastened with ropes and chains, and drawn out by the engine into a clear space, where they are surrounded by smaller pieces of wood and burned. Carloads of pickaxes, shovels and barrows are arriving from Baltimore for the workmen.
First Store Opened.
The first store was opened to-day by a grocer named W.A. Kramer, whose stock, though covered with mud and still wet from the flood, has been preserved intact. So far the greater part of his things have been bought for relics. The other storekeepers are dragging out the debris in their shops and shoveling the mud from the upper stories upon inclined boards that shoot it into the street, but with all this energy it will be weeks before the streets are brought to sight again.
As a proof of this, there was found this morning a passenger car fully half a mile from its depot, completely buried beneath the floor and roofs of other houses. All that could be seen of it by peering through intercepting rafters was one of the end windows over which was painted the impotent warning of "Any person injuring this car will be dealt with according to law."
Curious Finds of Workmen.
The workmen find many curious things among the ruins, and are, it should be said to their credit, particularly punctilious about leaving them alone. One man picked up a baseball catcher's mask under a great pile of machinery, and the decorated front of the balcony circle of the Opera House was found with the chairs still immediately about its semi-circle, a quarter of a mile from the theatre's site.
The mahogany bar of a saloon, with its nickel-plated rail, lies under another heap in the city park, and thousands of cigars from a manufactory are piled high in Vine street, and are used as the only dry part of the roadway. Those of the people who can locate their homes have gathered what furniture and ornaments they can find together, and sit beside them looking like evicted tenants.
The Grand Army of the Republic, represented by Department Commander Thomas J. Stewart, have placed a couple of tents at the head of Main street for the distribution of food and clothing. A census of the people will be taken and the city divided into districts, each worthy applicant will be furnished with a ticket giving his or her number and the number of the district.
The Post-office Uniforms.
Across the street from the Grand Army tents is the temporary post-office, which is now in fairly good working order. One of the distributing clerks hunted up a newspaper correspondent to tell him that the post-office uniforms sent from Philadelphia by the employees of that city's office have arrived safely and that the men want to return thanks through this paper.
The Red Cross Army people from Philadelphia have decided to remain, notwithstanding General Hastings' cool reception, and they have taken up their quarters in Kernville, where they say the destitution is as great as in what was the city proper.
The Tale the Clocks Tell.
The clocks of the city in both public and private houses tell different tales of the torrent that stopped them. Some of them ceased to tick the moment the water reached them. In Dibert's banking-house the marble time-piece on the mantel stopped at seven minutes after 4 o'clock. In the house of the Hon. John M. Rose, on the bank of Stony Creek, was a clock in every room of the mansion from the cellar to the attic. Mr. Rose is a fine machinist, and the mechanism of clocks has a fascination for him that is simply irresistible. He has bronze, marble, cuckoo, corner or "grandfather" clocks—all in his house. One of them was stopped exactly at 4 o'clock; still another at 4.10; another at 4.15, and one was not stopped till 9 P.M. The "grandfather" clock did not stop at all, and is still going.
The town clocks, that is the clocks in church towers, are all going and were not injured by the water. The mantel piece clocks in nearly every house show a "no tick" at times ranging from 3.40 to 4.15.
Dead in the Jail.
This morning a man, in wandering through the skirts of the city, came upon the city jail, and finding the outer door open, went into the gloomy structure. Hanging against the wall he found a bunch of keys and fitting them in the doors opened them one after another. In one cell he found a man lying on the floor in the mud in a condition of partial decomposition. He looked more closely at the dead body and recognized it as that of John McKee, son of Squire McKee, of this city, who had been committed for a short term on Decoration Day for drunkenness. The condition of the cell showed that the man had been overpowered and smothered by the water, but not till he had made every effort that the limits of his cell would allow to save himself. There were no other prisoners in the jail.
Heroes of the Night.
Thomas Magee, the cashier of the Cambria Iron Company's general stores, tells a thrilling story of the manner in which he and his fellow clerks escaped from the waters themselves, saved the money drawers and rescued the lives of nineteen other people during the progress of the flood. He says:
It was 4.15 o'clock when the flood struck our building with a crash. It seemed to pour in from every door and window on all sides, as well as from the floors above us. I was standing by the safe, which was open at the time, and snatched the tin box which contained over $12,000 in cash, and with other clerks at my heels flew up the stairs to the second floor. In about three minutes we were up to our waists in water, and started to climb to the third floor of the building. Here we remained with the money until Saturday morning, when we were taken out in boats. Besides myself there were in the building Michael Maley, Frank Balsinger, Chris Mintzmeyer, Joseph Berlin and Frank Burger, all of whom escaped. All Friday night and Saturday morning we divided our time between guarding the money, providing for our own safety and rescuing the poor people floating by. We threw out ropes and gathered logs and timbers together until we had enough to make a raft, which we bound together with ropes and used in rescuing people. During the night we rescued Henry Weaver, his wife and two children; Captain Carswell, wife and three children, and three servant girls; Patrick Ravel, wife and one child; A.M. Dobbins and two others whose names I have forgotten. Besides this we cut large pieces of canvas and oilcloth and wrapped it around bread and meat and other eatables and threw it or floated it out to those who went by on housetops, rafts, etc., whom we could not rescue without getting our raft in the drift and capsizing. We must have fed 100 people in this way alone.
When we were rescued ourselves we took the money over to Prospect Hill, and sent to the justice of the peace, who swore us all in to keep guard over our own money and that taken by Paymaster Barry from the Cambria Iron Company's general offices, amounting to $4000, under precisely the same circumstances that marked our escape. We remained on guard until Monday night, when the soldiers came over and escorted us back to the office of the Cambria Iron Company, where we placed the money in the company's vault.
So far as known at this hour only eighteen bodies have been this morning recovered in the Conemaugh Valley. One of these was a poor remnant of humanity that was suddenly discovered by a teamster in the centre of the road over which his wagons had been passing for the past forty-eight hours. The heavy vehicles had sunk deeply in the sand and broken nearly every bone in the putrefying body. It was quite impossible to identify the corpse, and it was taken to the morgue and orders issued for its burial after a few hours' exposure to the gaze of those who still eagerly search for missing friends.
Only the hardiest can bear to enter the Morgue this morning, so overwhelming is the dreadful stench. The undertakers even, after hurriedly performing their task of washing a dead body and preparing it for burial, retreat to the yard to await the arrival of the next ghastly find. A strict order is now in force that all bodies should be interred only when it becomes impossible to longer preserve them from absolute putrefaction. There is no iron-clad rule. In some instances it is necessary to inter some putrid body within a few hours, while others can safely be preserved for several days. Every possible opportunity is afforded for identification.
Four bodies were taken from the ruins at the Cambria Club House and the company's store this morning. The first body was that of a girl about seventeen years of age. She was found in the pantry and it is supposed that she was one of the servants in the house. She was terribly bruised and her face was crushed into a jelly. A boy about seven years of age was taken from the same place. Two men and a woman were taken from in front of a store on Main street. The remains were all bruised and in a terrible condition. They had to be embalmed and buried immediately, and it was impossible to have any one identify them.
Only Fifty Saved at Woodville.
The number of people missing from Woodville is almost incredible, and from present indications it looks as if only about fifty people in the borough were saved. Mrs. H.L. Peterson, who has been a resident at Woodville for a number of years, is one of the survivors. While looking for Miss Paulsen, of Pittsburg, of the drowned, she came to a coffin which was marked "Mrs. H.L. Peterson, Woodville Borough, Pa., age about forty, size five feet one inch, complexion dark, weight about two hundred pounds." This was quite an accurate description of Mrs. Peterson. She tore the card from the coffin and one of the officers was about to arrest her. Her explanations were satisfactory and she was released.
In speaking of the calamity afterward she said: "The people of Woodville had plenty of time to get out of the town if they were so minded. We received word shortly before two o'clock that the flood was coming, and a Pennsylvania Railroad conductor went through the town notifying the people. I stayed until half-past three o'clock, when the water commenced to rise very rapidly, and I thought it was best to get out of town. I told a number of women that they had better go to the hills, but they refused, and the cause of this refusal was that their husbands would not go with them and they refused to leave alone."
Terrific Experience of a Pullman Conductor.
Mr. John Barr, the conductor of the Pullman car on the day express train that left Pittsburgh at eight o'clock, May 31, gave an account of his experience in the Conemaugh Valley flood: "I was the last one saved on the train," he said. "When the train arrived at Johnstown last Friday, the water was up to the second story of the houses and people were going about in boats. We went on to Conemaugh and had to halt there, as the water had submerged the tracks and a part of the bridge had been washed away. Two sections of the day express were run up to the most elevated point.
"About four o'clock I was standing at the buffet when the whistle began blowing a continuous blast—the relief signal. I went out and saw what appeared to be a huge moving mountain rushing rapidly toward us. It seemed to be surmounted by a tall cloud of foam.
Sounding the Alarm.
"I ran into the car and shouted to the passengers, 'For God's sake follow me! Stop for nothing!'
"They all dashed out except two. Miss Paulsen and Miss Bryan left the car, but returned for their overshoes. They put them on, and as they again stepped from the car they were caught by the mighty wave and swept away. Had they remained in the car they would have been saved, as two passengers who stayed there escaped.
"One was Miss Virginia Maloney, a courageous, self-possessed young woman. She tied securely about her neck a plush bag, so that her identity could be established if she perished. Imprisoned in the car with her was a maid employed by Mrs. McCullough. They attempted to leave the car, but the water drove them back. They remained there until John Waugh, the porter, and I waded through the water and rescued them.
"The only passengers I lost were the two unfortunate young ladies I have named. I looked at the corpses of the luckless victims brought in during the two days I remained in Johnstown, but the bodies of the two passengers were not among them.
"At Conemaugh the people were extremely kind and hospitable. They threw open their doors and provided us with a share of what little food they had and gave us shelter.
Stripped of Her Clothing.
"While at Conemaugh, Miss Wayne, of Altoona, who had a miraculous escape, was brought in. She was nude, every article of her clothing having been torn from her by the furious flood. There was no female apparel at hand, and she had to don trousers, coat, vest and hat.
"We had a severe task in reaching Ebensburg, eighteen miles from Conemaugh. We started on Sunday and were nine hours in reaching our destination. At Ebensburg we boarded the train which conveyed us to Altoona, where we were cared for at the expense of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company.
"I had a rough siege. I was in the water twelve hours. The force of the flood can be imagined by the fact that seven or eight locomotives were carried away and floated on the top of the angry stream as if they were tiny chips."
Stories of the Flood.
War, death, cataclysm like this, America, Take deep to thy proud, prosperous heart.
E'en as I chant, lo! out of death, and out of ooze and slime, The blossoms rapidly blooming, sympathy, help, love, From west and east, from south and north and over sea, Its hot spurr'd hearts and hands humanity to human aid moves on; And from within a thought and lesson yet.
Thou ever-darting globe! thou Earth and Air! Thou waters that encompass us! Thou that in all the life and death of us, in action or in sleep. Thou laws invisible that permeate them and all! Thou that in all and over all, and through and under all, incessant! Thou! thou! the vital, universal, giant force resistless, sleepless, calm, Holding Humanity as in the open hand, as some ephemeral toy, How ill to e'er forget thee!
"Are the horrors of the flood to give way to the terrors of the plague?" is the question that is now agitating the valley of the Conemaugh. To-day opened warm and almost sultry, and the stench that assails one's senses as he wanders through Johnstown is almost overpowering. Sickness, in spite of the precautions and herculean labors of the sanitary authorities, is on the increase and the fears of an epidemic grow with every hour.
"It is our impression," said Dr. T.L. White, assistant to the State Board of Health, this morning, "that there is going to be great sickness here within the next week. Five cases of malignant diphtheria were located this morning on Bedford street, and as they were in different houses they mean five starting points for disease. All this talk about the dangers of epidemic is not exaggerated, as many suppose, but is founded upon all experience. There will be plenty of typhoid fever and kindred diseases here within a week or ten days in my opinion. The only thing that has saved us thus far has been the cool weather. That has now given place to summer weather, and no one knows what the next few days may bring forth."
Fresh Meat and Vegetables Wanted.
Even among the workmen there is already discernible a tendency to diarrhoea and dysentery. The men are living principally upon salt meat, and there is a lack of vegetables. I have been here since Sunday and have tasted fresh meat but once since that time. I am only one of the many. Of course the worst has passed for the physicians, as our arrangements are now perfected and each corps will be relieved from time to time. Twenty more physicians arrived from Pittsburgh this morning and many of us will be relieved to-day. But the opinion is general among the medical men that there will be more need for doctors in a week hence than there is now.
Dr. R.L. Sibbel, of the State Board of Health, is in charge of Sanitary Headquarters. "We are using every precaution known to science," said he this morning, "to prevent the possibility of epidemic. Our labors here have not been confined to any particular channel, but have been extended in various directions. Disinfectants, of course, are first in importance, and they have been used with no sparing hand. The prompt cremation of dead animals as fast as discovered is another thing we have insisted upon. The immediate erection of water-closets throughout the ruins for the workmen was another work of the greatest sanitary importance that has been attended to. They, too, are being disinfected at frequent intervals. We have a committee, too, that superintends the burial of the victims at the cemeteries. It is of the utmost importance in this wholesale interment that the corpses should be interred a safe distance beneath the surface in order that their poisonous emanations may not find exit through the crevices of the earth.
"Another committee is making a house-to-house inspection throughout the stricken city to ascertain the number of inhabitants in each standing house, the number of the sick, and to order the latter to the hospital whenever necessary. One great danger is the overcrowding of houses and hovels, and that is being prevented as much as possible by the free use of tents upon the mountain side. So far there is but little contagious disease, and we hope by diligent and systematic efforts to prevent any dangerous outbreak."
It is now rumored that the South Fork Hunting and Fishing Club is a thing of the past. No one admits his membership and it is doubtful if outside the cottage owners one could find more than half a dozen members in the city. Even some of the cottage owners will repudiate their ownership until it is known whether or not legal action will be taken against them. If it were not for the publicity which might follow one could secure a transfer of a large number of shares of the club's stock to himself, accompanied by a good sized roll of money. It is certain that the cottage owners cannot repudiate their ownership. None of them, however, will occupy the houses this summer.
The Club Found Guilty.
Coroner Hammer, of Westmoreland county, who has been sitting on the dead found down the river at Nineveh, concluded his inquests to-day. His trip to South Fork Dam on Wednesday has convinced him that the burden of this great disaster rests on the shoulders of the South Fork Hunting and Fishing Club of Pittsburgh. The verdict was written to-night, but not all the jury were ready to sign it. It finds the South Fork Hunting and Fishing Club responsible for the loss of life because of gross, if not criminal negligence, and of carelessness in making repairs from time to time. This would let the Pennsylvania Railroad Company out from all blame for allowing the dam to fall so badly out of repair when they got control of the Pennsylvania Canal and abandoned it. The verdict is what might have been expected after Wednesday's testimony.
Mr. A.M. Wellington, with P. Burt, associate editor of the Engineering News, of New York, has just completed an examination of the dam which caused the great disaster here. Mr. Wellington states that the dam was in every respect of very inferior construction, and of a kind wholly unwarranted by good engineering practices of thirty years ago. Both the original and reconstructed dams were of earth only, with no heart wall, but only riprapped on the slopes.
The original dam, however, was made in dammed and watered layers, which still show distinctly in the wrecked dam. The new end greatly added to its stability, but it was to all appearances simply dumped in like an ordinary railroad fill, or if rammed, the wreck shows no evidence of the good effect of such work. Much of the old part is standing intact, while the adjacent parts of the new work are wholly carried off. There was no central wall of puddle or masonry either in the new or old dam. It has been the invariable practice of engineers for thirty or forty years to use one or the other in building high dams of earth. It is doubtful if there is a single dam or reservoir in any other part of the United States of over fifty feet in height which lacks this central wall.
Ignorance or Carelessness.
The reconstructed dam also bears the mark of great ignorance or carelessness in having been made nearly two feet lower in the middle than at the ends. It should rather have crowned in the middle, which would have concentrated the overflow, if it should occur, at the ends instead of in the centre. Had the break begun at the ends the cut of the water would have been so gradual that little or no harm might have resulted. Had the dam been cut at the ends when the water began running over the centre the sudden breaking would have been at least greatly diminished, possibly prolonged, so that little harm would have resulted. The crest of the old dam had not been raised in the reconstruction of 1881. The old overflow channel through the rock still remains, but owing to the sag of the crest in the middle of the dam only five and a half feet of water in it, instead of seven feet, was necessary to run the water over the crest.
And the rock spillway, narrow at best, had been further contracted by a close grating to prevent the escape of fish, capped by a good-sized timber, and in some slight degree also as a trestle footbridge. The original discharge pipe indicates that it was made about half earth and half rock, but if so there was little evidence of it in the broken dam. The riprapping was merely a skin on each face with more or less loose spauls mixed with the earth. The dam was seventy-two feet above water, two to one inside slope, one and a half to one outside slope and twenty feet wide on top. The rock throughout was about one foot below the surface. The earth was pretty good material for such a dam, if it was to be built at all, being of a clayey nature, making good puddle. To this the fact of it standing intact since 1881 must be ascribed, as no engineer of standing would have ever tried to so construct it. The fact that the dam was a reconstructed one after twenty years' abandonment made it especially hard on the older part of the dam to withstand the pressure of the water.
Elder Thought it was Safe.
Cyrus Elder, general counsel for the Cambria Iron Company and a wealthy and prominent citizen of Johnstown, lost a wife and daughter in the recent disaster and narrowly escaped with his own life.
"When the rebuilding of the dam was begun some years ago," he said, "the president of the Cambria Iron Company was very seriously concerned about it, and wished, if possible, to prevent its construction, referring the matter to the solicitor of the company. A gentleman of high scientific reputation, who was then one of the general engineers, inspected the dam. He condemned several matters in the way of construction and reported that this had been changed and that the dam was perfectly safe. My son, George R. Elder, was at that time a student in the Troy Polytechnic University.
"His professor submitted a problem to the class which he immediately recognized as being the question of the safety of the South Fork dam. He sent it to me at the time in a letter, which, of course, is lost, with everything else I possessed, in which he stated that the verdict of the class was that the dam was safe. The president of the Cambria Iron Company being still anxious, thought it might be good policy to have some one inside of the fishing and hunting corporation owning the dam. The funds of the company were therefore used to purchase two shares of its stock, which were placed in the name of D.J. Morrell. After his death these shares were transferred to and are still held by me, although they are the property of the Cambria Iron Company. They have not been sold because there was no market for them."
Untold Volumes of Water.
So far as the Signal Service is concerned, the amount of rainfall in the region drained by the Conemaugh river cannot be ascertained. The Signal Service authorities here, to whom the official there reported, received only partial reports last Friday. There had been a succession of rains nearly all of last week. The last rain commenced Thursday evening and was unusually severe.
Mrs. H.M. Ogle, who had been the Signal Service representative in Johnstown for several years and also manager of the Western Union office there, telegraphed at eight o'clock Friday morning that the river marked 14 feet, rising; a rise of 13 feet in twenty-four hours. At eleven o'clock she wired: "River 20 feet and rising, higher than ever before; water in first floor. Have moved to second. River gauges carried away. Rainfall, 2 3-10 inches." At twenty-seven minutes to one P.M., Mrs. Ogle wired: "At this hour north wind; very cloudy; water still rising."
Nothing more was heard from her by the bureau, but at the Western Union office here later in the afternoon she commenced to tell an operator that the dam had broken, that a flood was coming, and before she had finished the conversation a singular click of the instrument announced the breaking of the current. A moment afterward the current of her life was broken forever.
Sergeant Stewart, in charge of the bureau, says that the fall of water on the Conemaugh shed at Johnstown up to the time of the flood was probably 2 5-10 inches. He believes it was much heavier in the mountains. The country drained by the little Conemaugh and Stony Creek covers an area of about one hundred square miles. The bureau, figuring on this basis and 2 5-10 inches of rainfall, finds that 464,640,000 cubic feet of water was precipitated toward Johnstown in its last hours. This is independent of the great volume of water in the lake, which was not less than 250,000,000 cubic feet.
Water Enough to Cover the Valley.
It is therefore easily seen that there was ample water to cover the Conemaugh Valley to the depth of from ten to twenty-five feet. Such a volume of water was never known to fall in that country in the same time.
Colonel T.P. Roberts, a leading engineer, estimates that the lake drained twenty-five square miles, and gives some interesting data on the probable amount of water it contained. He says:—"The dam, as I understand, was from hill to hill about one thousand feet long and about eighty-five feet high at the highest point. The pond covered above seven hundred acres, at least for the present I will assume that to be the case. We are told also that there was a waste weir at one end seventy-five feet wide and ten feet below the comb or top of the dam. Now we are told that with this weir open and discharging freely to the utmost of its capacity, nevertheless the pond or lake rose ten inches per hour until finally it overflowed the top, and, as I understand, the dam broke by being eaten away at the top.
Calculating the Amount of Water.
"Thus we have the elements for very simple calculation as to the amount of water precipitated by the flood, provided these premises are accurate. To raise 700 acres of water to a height of ten feet would require about 300,000,000 cubic feet of water, and while this was rising the waste dam would discharge an enormous volume—it would be difficult to say just how much without a full knowledge of the shape of its side walls, approaches and outlets—but if the rise required ten hours the waste river might have discharged perhaps 90,000,000 cubic feet. We would then have a total of flood-water of 390,000,000 cubic feet. This would indicate a rainfall of about eight inches over the twenty-five square miles. As that much does not appear to have fallen at the hotel and dam it is more than likely that even more than eight inches were precipitated in the places further up. These figures I hold tentatively, but I am much inclined to believe that there was a cloud burst."
Six thousand men were at work on the ruins to-day. They are paid two dollars a day, and have to earn it. The work seems to tell very little, however, for the mass of debris is simply enormous. The gangs have cleaned up the streets pretty thoroughly in the main part of the city, from which the brick blocks were swept like card houses before a breeze. The houses are pulled apart and burned in bonfires. Nowhere is anything found worth saving.
It is not probable that the mass of debris at the bridge, by which the water is tainted, can be removed in less than thirty days with the greatest force possible to work on it. That particular job is under the control of the State Board of Health. Every day adds to its seriousness. The mass is being cleared by dynamite at the bridge where the current is strongest, and the open place slowly grows larger. Not infrequently a body is found after an explosion has loosened the wreckage.
So-called relief corps are still moving to and fro in the city, but the most serious labor of many of the members is to carry a bright yellow badge to aid them in passing the guards while sight-seeing. The militia men are little better than ornamental. The guards do a good deal of changing, to the annoyance of workers who want to get into the lines, but they rarely stop any one. The soldiers do a vast deal of loafing. A photographer who had his camera ready to take a view among the ruins was arrested to-day and made to work for an hour by General Hastings' order. When his stint was done he did not linger, but went at once.
Signs of Improvement.
"What is the condition of the valley now?" I asked Colonel Scott.
"It is improving with every hour. The perfect organization which has been effected within the past day or two has gradually resolved all the chaos and confusion into a semblance of order and regulation."
"Are many bodies being discovered now?"
"Very few; that is to say, comparatively few. Of course, as the waters recede more and more between the banks, we have come upon bodies here and there, as they were exposed to sight. The probabilities are that there will be a great many bodies yet discovered under the rubbish that covers the streets, and our hope and expectation is that the majority of all the dead may be recovered and disposed of in a Christian manner."
"How about the movement to burn the rubbish, bodies and all?"
"I do not think that will be done—at least only as a last extremity. While there is great anxiety in regard to the sanitary condition, all possible precautions are being taken, and we hope to prevent any disease until we shall have time to thoroughly overhaul the wreck.
Consideration for the Dead.
"The greatest consideration is being given to this matter of the recovery of the dead and treatment of the bodies after discovery. I think an impression has gone abroad that the dead are being handled here very much as one would handle cord wood, but this is a great mistake. As soon as possible after discovery they are borne from public gaze and taken to the Morgue, where only persons who have lost relatives or friends are admitted. Of course the general exclusion is not applied to attendants, physicians and representatives of the press, but it is righteously applied to careless sight-seers. We have no room for sight-seers in Johnstown now. It is earnest workers and laborers we want, and of these we can hardly have too many."
Speculating in Disaster.
Some long headed men are trying to make a neat little stake quietly out of the disaster. A syndicate has been formed to buy up as much real estate as possible in Johnstown, trusting to get a big block as they got one to-day, for one-third of the valuation placed on it a week ago. The members of the syndicate are keeping very much in the background and conducting their business through a local agent.
I asked Adjutant General Hastings to-day what he thought of the situation.
"It is very good so far as reported," was the reply. "Bodies are being gradually recovered all the time, but of course not in the large number of the first few days. Last night we arrested several ghouls that were wandering amid the wreck on evil intent, and they were promptly taken to the guard house. This morning they were given the choice of imprisonment or going to work at two dollars a day, and they promptly chose the latter. We are getting along very well in our work, and very little tendency to lawlessness, I am happy to say, is observed."
Succor for the Living.
The Red Cross flag now flies over the society's own camp beside the Baltimore and Ohio tracks, near the bridge to Kernville. The tents were pitched this morning and the camp includes a large supply tent, mess tent and offices. Miss Clara Barton, of Washington, is, of course, in charge, and the work is being rapidly gotten into shape. I found Miss Barton at the camp this morning.
"The Red Cross Society will remain here," she said, "so long as there is any work to do. There is hardly any limit to what we will do. Much of the present assistance that has been extended is, of course, impulsive and ephemeral. When that is over there will still be work to do, and the Red Cross Society will be here to do it. We are always the last to leave the field.
"We need and can use to the greatest advantage all kinds of supplies, and shall be glad to receive them. Money is practically useless here as there is no place to buy what we need."
Dr. J. Wilkes O'Neill, of Philadelphia, surgeon of the First Regiment, is here in charge of the Philadelphia division of the Red Cross Society. He is assisted by a corps of physicians, nurses and attendants. Within two hours after establishing the camp this morning about forty cases, both surgical and medical, were treated. Diphtheria broke out in Kernville to-day. Eleven cases were reported, eight of which were reported to be malignant. The epidemic is sure to extend. There are also cases of ulcerated tonsilitis. The patients are mostly those left homeless by the flood and are fairly well situated in frame houses. The doctors do not fear an epidemic of pneumonia. The Red Cross Society has established a hospital camp in Grubbtown for the treatment of contagious diseases. An epidemic of typhoid fever is feared, two cases having appeared. The camp is well located in a pleasant spot near fine water. It is supplied with cots, ambulances and some stores. They have an ample supply of surgical stores, but need medical stores badly.
Serving Out the Rations.
At the commissary station at the Pennsylvania Railroad depot there was considerable activity. A crowd of about one thousand people had gathered about the place after the day's rations. The crowd became so great that the soldiers had to be called up to guard the place until the Relief Committee was ready to give out the provisions. Several carloads of clothing arrived this morning and was to be disposed of as soon as possible. The people were badly in need of clothing, as the weather had been very chilly since Saturday.
B.F. Minnimun, a wealthy contractor of Springfield, Ohio, arrived this forenoon with a despatch from Governor Foraker offering 2,000 trained laborers for Johnstown, to be sent at once if needed. The despatch further stated that if anything else was needed Ohio stood ready to respond promptly to the call.
What Clara Barton Said.
"It is like a blow on the head; there are no tears, they are stunned; but, ah, sir, I tell you they will awake after awhile and then the tears will flow down the hills of this valley from thousands of bleeding hearts, and there will be weeping and wailing such as never before."
That is what Clara Barton, president of the National Red Cross, said this afternoon as she stood in a plain black gown on the bank of Stony Creek directing the construction of the Red Cross tents, and she looked motherly and matronly, while her voice was trembling with sympathy.
"You see nothing but that dazed, sickly smile that calamity leaves," she went on, "like the crazy man wears when you ask him, 'How came you here?' Something happened, he says, that he alone knows; all the rest is blank to him. Here they give you that smile, that look and say 'I lost my father, my mother, my sisters,' but they do not realize it yet. The Red Cross intends to be here in the Conemaugh Valley when the pestilence comes to them, and we are making ready with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength. The militia, the railroad, the Relief Committees and everybody is working for us. The railroad has completely barricaded us so that none of our cars can be taken away by mistake."
When the great wave of death swept through Johnstown the people who had any chance of escape ran hither and thither in every direction. They did not have any definite idea where they were going, only that a crest of foaming waters as high as the housetops was roaring down upon them through the Conemaugh and that they must get out of the way of that. Some in their terror dived into the cellars of their houses and clambered over the adjoining roofs to places of safety. But the majority made for the hills, which girt the town like giants. Of the people who went to the hills, the water caught some in its whirl.
The others clung to trees and roots and pieces of debris which had temporarily lodged near the banks, and managed to save themselves. These people either stayed out on the hills wet, and in many instances walked all night, or they managed to find farmhouses which sheltered them. There was a fear of going back to the vicinity of the town. Even the people whose houses the water did not reach abandoned their homes and began to think of all of Johnstown as a city buried beneath the water. But in the houses which were thus able to afford shelter there was not food enough for all. Many survivors of the flood went hungry until the first relief supplies arrived from Pittsburgh.
Struggling to Live Again.
From all this fright, destitution and exposure is coming a nervous shock, culminating in insanity, pneumonia, fever and all the other forms of disease. When these people came back to Johnstown on the day after the wreck of the town they had to live in sheds, barns and in houses which had been but partially ruined. They had to sleep without any covering, in their wet clothes, and it took the liveliest kind of skirmishing to get anything to eat. Pretty soon a citizen's committee was established, and nearly all the male survivors of the flood were immediately sworn in as deputy sheriffs. They adorned themselves with tin stars, which they cut out of pieces of the sheets of metal in the ruins, and pieces of tin with stars cut out of them are now turning up continually, to the surprise of the Pittsburgh workmen who are endeavoring to get the town in shape.
The women and children were housed, so far as possible, in the few houses still standing, and some idea of the extent of the wreck of the town may be gathered from the fact that of 300 prominent buildings only 16 are uninjured. For the first day or so people were dazed by what had happened, and for that matter they are dazed still. They went about helpless, making vague inquiries for their friends, and hardly feeling the desire to eat anything. Finally the need of creature comforts overpowered them and they woke up to the fact that they were faint and sick.
Refugees in Their Own City.
Now this is to some extent changed by the arrival of tents and by the systematic military care for the suffering. But the daily life of a Johnstown man who is a refugee in his own city is still aimless and wandering. His property, his home, in nine cases out of ten, his wife and children, are gone. The chances are that he has hard work to find the spot where he and his family once lived and were happy. He meditates suicide, and even looks on the strangers who have flocked in to help him and to put him and his town on their feet again with a kind of sullen anger. He has frequent conflicts with the soldiers and with the sight-seers, and he is crazy enough to do almost anything.
The first thing that Johnstown people do in the morning is to go to the relief stations and get something to eat. They go carrying big baskets, and their endeavor is to get all they can. There has been a new system every day about the manner of dispensing the food and clothing to the sufferers. At first the supplies were placed where people could help themselves. Then they were placed in yards and handed to people over the fences. Then people had to get orders for what they wanted from the citizens' committee and their orders were filled at the different relief stations. Now the matter has been arranged this way, and probably finally. The whole matter of receiving and dispensing the relief supplies has been placed in the hands of the Grand Army of the Republic men.
Women Too Proud to Beg.
The Grand Army men have made the Adams Street Relief Station a central relief station and all the others at Kernville, the Pennsylvania depot, Cambria City and Jackson and Somerset Streets, sub-stations. The idea is to distribute supplies to the sub-stations from the central station and thus avoid the jam of crying and excited people at the committee's headquarters. The Grand Army men have appointed a committee of women to assist in their work. The women go from house to house ascertaining the number of people lost from there in the flood and the exact needs of the people. It was found necessary to have some such committee as this, for there were women actually starving who were too proud to take their places in lines with the other women with bags and baskets. Some of these people were rich before the flood.
Now they are not worth a dollar. One man who was reported to be worth $100,000 before the flood now is penniless and has to take his place in the line along with others seeking the necessaries of life.
Though the Adams street station is now the central relief station, the most imposing display of supplies is made at the Pennsylvania Railroad freight and passenger depots. Here on the platform and in the yards are piled up barrels of flour in long rows three and four barrels high. Biscuits in cans and boxes by the carload, crackers under the railroad sheds in bins, hams by the hundred strung on poles, boxes of soap and candles, barrels of kerosene oil, stacks of canned goods and things to eat of all sorts and kinds are here to be seen.
No Fear of a Food Famine.
The same sight is visible at the Baltimore and Ohio road and there is now no fear of a food famine in Johnstown, though of course everybody will have to rough it for weeks. What is needed most in this line are cooking utensils. Johnstown people want stoves, kettles, pans, knives and forks. All the things that have been sent so far have been sent with the evident idea of supplying an instant need, and that is right and proper. But it would be well now if instead of some of the provisions that are sent, cooking utensils should arrive. Fifty stoves arrived from Pittsburgh this morning, and it is said more are coming. At both the depots where the supplies are received and stored a big rope line encloses them in an impromptu yard so as to give room to those having the supplies in charge to walk around and see what they have got. On the inside of this line, too, stalk back and forth the soldiers with their rifles on their shoulders, and by the side of the lines pressing against the ropes there stands every day from daylight until dawn a crowd of women with big baskets who make piteous appeals to the soldiers to give them food for their children at once before the order of the relief committee.
Where Death Rules.
The following letters from a young woman to her mother, written immediately after the disaster at Johnstown from her home in New Florence, a few miles west of that place, though not intended for publication, picture in graphic manner the agony of suspense sustained by those who escaped the flood, and give side pictures of the scenes following the disaster. They were received in Philadelphia:
Hours of Suspense.
NEW FLORENCE, PA.—My Darling Mother: I am nearly crazed, and thought I would try and be quiet and write to you, as it always comforts me to feel you are near your child, though many miles are now between us. I have said my prayers over and over again all day long, and to-night I am going to spend in the watch-tower, and am trying to be quiet and brave, although my heart is just wrung with anguish. Andrew sent me word from Johnstown this afternoon about half-past three he was safe and would be home shortly. Well, he has never come, and I have had many reports of the work train, but no one seems to know anything definite about him. I have telegraphed and telegraphed, but no news yet, and all I can find out is he was seen on the bridge just before it went down. I am trying to be brave.
Good News at Last.
You see, dearest mother, I could not write, and now I am happy, though tired, for Andrew is home and safe, and I thank God for the great mercy he has shown his child. I won't dwell on my anxiety, it can better be imagined than described. From the letter I had from him at Johnstown, written at 9 A.M. Friday, until 6.30 last evening, I never knew whether he was living or dead. Thomas, our man, brought the news. God bless him, and it nearly cost him his life to do it, poor man. Andrew got separated from the party, and was close to the bridge when it was carried away, but escaped by going up the mountain. He tried to signal to his men he was safe, but could not make them see him, nor could those men that were with him; all communication was impossible. Thomas left him at nine o'clock Friday night on the mountain and tried to get home. He got a man to ferry him across the river above Johnstown, and the boat was upset, but all managed to get ashore, and Thomas walked all night and all yesterday, and came straight to me and told me my husband was safe, and an hour later I had a telegram from Andrew. He had walked from the Conemaugh side to Bolivar. The bridge at Nineveh was the only bridge left standing. He took the first train home from Bolivar and got home about 9.30.
I telegraphed you in the morning, or rather Uncle Clem, that I was safe and Andrew reported safe, though now they tell me every one here thought he was lost and Thomas with him. Thomas's wife was met at the station and informed of his death by some of the men, and six hours afterwards Thomas came home, yet more dead than alive, poor man. It is very hard to write, as all the country people and men have been here to tell me how glad they are "I got my husband safely back, and that I am a powerful sight lucky young woman." Well, mother darling, make your mind easy about your children now. Andrew is safe and well, though pretty well exhausted, and his feet are so sore and swollen he can hardly stand, and can't wear anything but rubbers, as his mountain shoes he cut to pieces. He left early this morning, but will be back to-night. I cannot begin to tell you of the horrors, as the papers do not half picture the distress. New Florence was not flooded, though some of the people left the place on Friday night and went up on Squirrel Hill.
Scenes at the River.
I went down to the river once, and that was enough, as I knew Andrew would not like me to see the sorrow, for which there was no help. I went just after the bridge fell, saw Centreville flooded and the people make a dash for the mountain. Yesterday two hundred and three bodies were taken from the river near here, and yet every train takes away more. The freight cars have taken nothing but human freight, and wagon load after wagon load of dead bodies have been right in front of the house. There was a child about Nellie's age, with light hair, dead in the wagon, with her hands clasped, saying her prayers, and her blue eyes staring wide open. By her side lay a man with a pipe in his mouth, naked children, and a woman with a baby at her breast. Oh, the terror on their faces. Two women and three men were rescued here, and a German family of mother, four children and father. I had them all on my hands to look after; no one could make them understand, and how I ever managed it I don't know, but I did. They lost two children and their home, but had a little money and were going to his brother's, at Hazleton. They got here in the night and left at noon, and it would have done your heart good to see them eat. One was a baby five weeks old.
Now, mother, I want you to go around among the family and get me everything in the way of clothes you possibly can, and get Uncle Clem to express them to me. I should also like money, and as much as you can get can be used. I am pretty well cleaned out of everything, as all the cattle and stock have been lost and nothing can be bought here, and all I have in the way of provisions is some preserves, chocolate, coffee, olives and crackers. We can't starve, as we have the chickens. I got the last meat from the butcher's yesterday, and he said he didn't expect to have any more for a week, so I told Uncle Clem I would not mind having two hams from Pittsburgh, and was very grateful for his telegram. I telegraphed him in the morning; also, Uncle White at Germantown, so that they might know I was all right, but from Auntie's telegram I judge Uncle Clem's telegrams were the only ones that got through. If I find I need provisions I will let you know, but do not think I will need anything for myself, and the poor are being fed by the relief supplies, and what is needed now is money and clothes.
There's not a house in the place that is not in trouble from the loss of some dear one, nor one that does not hold or shelter some one or more of the sufferers. Tell everybody anything you can get can be used, and by the time you get this letter I will know of more cases to provide for, so take everything you can get, and don't worry about me, for I am all right now that Andrew is safe. This letter has been written by instalments, as I have been interrupted so many times, so pardon the abruptness of it, and please send it to Germantown, as I have too much to do now. My hands and heart are both full. Milk is as scarce as wine, as the pasturage was all on the other side, and cows were lost, and bread is as scarce as can be, and, instead of a dozen eggs, we only get one a day. I am proud of New Florence, as all it has done to help the sufferers no one knows, and as for Mr. Bennett, he is one in a thousand. Mr. Hay's son has worked like a Trojan. Tell Cousin Hannah that the new tracks will be sure to be straight, as Andrew will superintend the whole business. With heart full of love to one and all and a kiss to the children. Lovingly,
The Awful After Scenes.
NEW FLORENCE, Sunday Night.
My Darling Mother: This is my second letter to you to-day. It is after 11 o'clock, and one of the men has just brought me word that Andrew will be home, he thought, by 1 o'clock; so I am waiting up for him, so as to give him his dinner, and I have been through so much I cannot go to bed until I know he is safe home again. I put him up a good lunch, and know he cannot starve.
Oh the horrors of to-day! I have only had one pleasant Sunday here, and that was the one after we were married. I have had a very busy day, as I have been through our clothes, and routing out everything possible for the sufferers and the dead, and the cry to-day for linen sheets, etc., was something awful. I have given away all my underclothes, excepting my very best things—and all my old ones I made into face-cloths for the dead. To-day they took five little children out of the water; they were playing "Ring around a rosy," and their hands were clasped in a clasp which even death did not loosen, and their faces were still smiling.